President greets Anchorage family

Posted: Monday, July 24, 2000

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE -- Just when it seemed President Clinton was going to hunker down on Air Force One during Sunday's brief refueling stop here, he came out and wowed the Nelvis family.

The Nelvises don't pack political heat, but they do have a special ``in'' that got them some early-morning face time with the president -- one of their kin is on the White House staff.

Three generations of the Anchorage clan -- about 15 men, women and children in all -- waited through the chilly night at Elmendorf's passenger terminal for the chance to meet Clinton, who was on his way back to Washington from the Group of Eight economic summit in Japan.

And when the president walked down the jet's stairs at about 4:15 a.m., the Nelvises hustled out onto the tarmac for their closeup.

Clad in a leather flight jacket, blue jeans and white sneakers, Clinton shook hands and posed for snapshots while giving each one a short burst of attention.

``It was exciting,'' said Danny Nelvis, whose family is originally from the Philippines. ``He said he only came off (the plane) because of us.''

``He said `Nice weather up here','' recounted Delfin Nelvis. ``It was the first time I met him -- he's a nice guy.''

Brother Bayani Nelvis joined the permanent White House staff in 1979, when the Oval Office belonged to Jimmy Carter.

Bayani was traveling as a personal aide to the president aboard Air Force One on Sunday. While the fuel trucks topped off the tanks, he spent some catch-up time with his mother, brothers and assorted relatives, all of whom he usually sees only once a year.

Bayani, wearing a navy blue suit and tie, said he arranged the visit through his supervisors.

``I had to position my family before he arrived, and that was why (the president) came down,'' he said before excusing himself to grab a few final moments of fraternal conversation.

Another brother, Rey Nelvis, said Clinton went out of his way to meet the family because he's so fond of Bayani.

``He even sent a card for my mother's birthday,'' Rey said proudly.

Younger members of the extended family said they realized not everyone gets to meet the president, and that they wouldn't soon forget the occasion.

``I asked him `Can I take a picture?' and he said, `Sure,' so we took a picture,'' said Leslie Candelaria, 18, of Eagle River. ``I was nervous, I was shaking. I've never met anyone popular or big before.''

The president later chatted with a group of top military officials, led by Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas Case, the highest-ranking officer in Alaska.

A number of other officers and enlisted personnel on hand also got a handshake before Clinton walked back up the stairs, gave onlookers a quick wave and disappeared inside the jet.

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